Steering left to avoid the berg


Jim Currie

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It was probably because Mr. Murdoch saw clear water to his left. AB Scarrot's description of the berg suggested it was high right ahead and tapered down to the right therefore Murdoch would go left.
Perhaps a wee bit like this?


JC
208409.jpg


JC
 

Walter Flynn

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Nobody said the berg was 'dead' ahead. Fleet said it was 'right ahead' which is why he struck 3 bells. Could have been a bit to starboard.
 

Jim Currie

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Glad you liked it Mathew. The original is in the Loo-vre lol.

You're right Walter.. no one said 'dead ahead. As you know, Fleet said 'Right ahead' as opposed to just 'ahead'. The word 'right' is a degree of 'ahead-ness' (if there's such a word?)This from the manual of Seamanship used by most seamen of the day:
"When the lookout man sights a light on the starboard bow he usually intimates the fact by one stroke of the bell, two strokes for a light on the port bow, and three strokes when it is sighted RIGHT AHEAD. He may supplement this signal by calling out the fact to the officer on the bridge".

The point here is that the term 'right ahead' is an official training manual one and means exactly what it says.. directly on the course of the vessel. If the lookout chooses to call the bridge and confirm his sighting, he would not say 'right ahead' unless it was exactly so, but would give the direction in points or parts of a point relative to the ship's head. 'The term 'ahead' possibly comes from old sailing ship speak meaning the direction in which the ship is travelling.. on her course-line.. on the heading of the ship.. hence the word 'head' prefixed by 'a'!

A lookout who sees a ship half a point on either bow and gives 3 bells should be working in the galley or engine room!

However, when a light is sighted ahead or nearly ahead at a distance whereby only a bearing would prove the exact definition or when an object is so near or so big as to overlap on either bow then I would say 3 bells is the best bet. For example: IF side of the presented to Murdoch when he first saw it was 150 feet from high side to low side and IF Murdoch had taken a bearing of the left and right ends of the berg when the ship was on course of 265T; IF the high (nearest side) bore 262T then the low ( furthest to starboard end would have been about 272T. The berg would still be technically ahead but the obvious way to avoid it would be to go to the left.

JC
 
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Back when I was writing my book “Last Log,” I tried to reconcile what I know of ship handling with the conventional version of the accident. The result was a defense of the “port around” theory which while being quite imaginative was...in my current opinion...wrong. Now, I see that conventional wisdom regarding Murdoch's ice avoidance maneuvers simply requires too many “willing suspensions of disbelief.” Worse, the “port around” theory ignores more of the sworn testimony than it acknowledges. I'm sorry to say that the “port around” of conventional wisdom cannot be anything more than a myth concoction created by the ship's crew, politicians, company executives and never-let-the-facts-get-in-the-way-of-a-good-story news reporters. It has been kept alive by historians desiring avoid the heavy lifting of historical research.

Two critical internal contradiction are contained in the “port around” theory. One involves the angular rotation of the bow prior to contact. According to Hichens, Titanic's bow rotated about two points before impact. This is two point (22.5 degree) rotation accepted as gospel within the “port around” conventional wisdom despite contradictory testimony from Fleet and Lee that the ship's bow only just started to rotate as Fleet picked up the telephone to the bridge some time after ringing the bell. The lookouts did not specify the amount of that rotation, but the tenor of their words does not indicate anything as substantial as a two-point or 22.5 degree turn to port.

If the turn to port was small as suggested by the lookouts, then Jim's drawing (posted above) makes perfect sense. But, if Hichens was correct and the bow rotated 22.5 degrees before impact, then Jim's drawing is impossible. Quite simply, the larger turn of Hichens would have required about 37 seconds. During that time Titanic would have achieved about 150 to 200 feet of “transfer” to the left of its original track. This means that either the fatal berg was a lot bigger than any of the eyewitnesses described, or Murdoch made the dumbest maneuver in history — he turned left for a danger passing clear to port.

Another problem with the “port around” is that it would have produced the wrong damage to the hull. For the sake of argument let's assume that Murdoch did turn left for an object to port. This would have created damage on the starboard bow, but it would not have matched the descriptions from eyewitnesses. In the real accident damage began in the peak tank and continued aft to boiler room #6. But, if Titanic had been in the midst of a substantial turn to port as required by the “port around” theory, the stern would have exhibited a substantial “kick” to starboard. That is, the stern would have been rotate outside of the ship's maneuvering circle by between 6 and 8 degrees. Simultaneously, the bow would have rotated to the inside of the turn. In such a condition, the peak tank at the forefoot should have been safe from damage. This margin of safety would have been increased by the upward slope of the bottom forward of bulkhead A.

Worse, the rotational momentum of the roughly 50,000 deadweight tons of the ship would not have been stopped by the “hard a-port” (right turn) ordered by Murdoch when the ship first made contact on the berg. Olliver testified to this second helm order. So, in the conventional “port around,” the starboard side of the ship would have swung itself into hard contact along the parallel side. Damage should have resulted in boiler rooms we know remained undamaged and dry after impact. So, the conventional wisdom defies the physics which underlie the way ships maneuver in the water.

The peak tank was damaged and did flood. The real pattern of damage as described by eyewitnesses almost certainly did not result during an ongoing turn to port. Without doubt, the real pattern indicates an almost head-on impact with neutral helm. This is supported by Fleet's testimony that the ship went straight for the iceberg during the seconds before he made his phone call. His testimony is backed up by what he said on the night of the accident, “Iceberg right ahead.” (Please see Jim's excellent discussion of this term in the post above.)

This brings up the element of time. How much time passed between the lookouts' warning bell and impact? The 37 seconds mentioned above is probably the shortest possible duration. Many people have used the probable duration of the walk from the ship's compass platform forward to the bridge, which would have been 45 to 50 secons. This longer duration is based on the testimony of Olliver that he heard the crow's nest bell while on the platform and then later saw the fatal berg glide past the starboard bridge wing.

Olliver undoubtedly took 45 to 50 seconds to move from platform to bridge. But, that tells us nothing about the duration between warning bell and impact. The reason is quite simple. Olliver never said exactly when he left the platform. It could have been a second or two after the report of the bell, or it could have been several minutes. He never specified. The man who should have known this critical duration, lookout Fleet, made a total fool of himself during the U.S. Senate inquiry when questioned directly about the duration between bell and impact. He claimed not to know the difference between a few seconds and the passage of an hour or more. Not likely.

Fleet obviously did not want to put a number to that duration. Instead, he used the word “immediate” to indicate the time span. Unfortunately, lazy historians have not looked up the definition of this word. “Immediate” does not refer to the time duration between two events, only that they occurred in succession with no intervening events. In proper context one of your birthdays comes “immediately” after the previous even though they are a year apart because you have no intervening natal days to celebrate.

Then, there is the evidence conveniently discarded because it does not support the conventional wisdom about the “port around.” I find it curious that the testimony of Scarrott is so scrupulously discarded by those who favor the “port around” theory. This seaman was the only person to testify before either inquiry to put a number to the critical bell/berg duration. Scarrot said it was five to eight minutes. Since there is no hard evidence contradicting his testimony, it stands as the best estimate — five to eight minutes, or between 1.8 and 2.9 miles at Titanic's speed that night (22 knots per Boxhall's testimony).

The bottom line of all this is that conventional wisdom about the “port around” flies in the face of both what the participants testified under oath and the harsh laws of physics governing the way ships steer. As I see it, the only possible conclusion that can be reached by properly researching the existing historical record is that the claimed “port around” is a myth of history. It never happened. Something else took place that night

— David G. Brown
 

Jim Currie

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Good evening David! Nice to see you on line again.

We carry on the old 'battle'!

Personally, I think too many researchers and interested parties look for wood instead of trees. Everyone imagines that these sailormen were somehow secretive conniving individuals prone to 'double-speak'. Sure, they were reasonably well educated as far as ordinary people of the times were concerned but intrigue was the domain of the upper classes.

I don't know what you mean by a 'port round theory'.

Boxhall was the only surviving witness to the conversation between Murdoch and Captain Smith and he told the US inquiry of Murdoch's statement: 'I intended to port round it'. Now unless Boxhall was lying..where is the 'theory'?
The support for Boxhall's evidence comes from QM Hitchens' hard-a-starboard helm order.

As for the rotation of the bow while the helm was being applied: The only person who had any sure-fire evidence and a way to measure the amount of heading change was QM Hitchens.. he had a compass card in front of him and nothing else to look at.
To measure amount of turn; the lookouts had the forestay relative to the iceberg and/or perhaps a star or group of stars. The latter only if they had noted them immediately before the helm was applied and that is extremely doubtful since they were watching the berg ahead of the ship.
The 37 second period written about is a red herring which has very limited relevance to the impact v. helm and engine order. There are but three pieces of evidence which are relevant. The evidence of lookouts Fleet and Lee - the evidence of QM Hitchens and the evidence Leading Stoker,Fred Barrett. Combined, they give a turn to impact time of about 7 seconds; meaning that Murdoch gave the helm order when the iceberg was no more than 200 feet ahead of the ship. Something along the following lines:

208416.jpg


How do I arrive at this?

If we assume that the helm was mid-ship at the time the helm order came, it would take between 5 an 8 seconds to apply full helm. (believe me, I've done it!) Hitchens stated that he had "barely" got the helm hard over when impact came. Therefore lets' say 7 seconds- helm order to impact. He also inferred that Murdoch gave the engine order at the same time, or nearly the same time as the helm order. Now we have a 7 second period: helm/engine order to impact. Leading Stoker Barrett verified this when he said that the impact came very quickly(7 seconds?)after the boiler room red stop light signal and that they did not even have time to shut all dampers before impact and the water flooded into boiler room 6.

Now what about Fleets' evidence?

As you rightly point out; he was vague if not down-right evasive about the interval between Bells and the ship's head turning. I suspect two reasons for this:
1: The bullying, insensitive method of questioning adopted by his interrogator and:
2: the fact that he felt guilty and worried that he and his partner Leigh waited too long before using the phone to the bridge. Note that the bridge did not call the crow's nest after the bells therefore they did not see what the bells were about until Lee phoned. Or they did so at the same time he did. That was approximately when the ship's head started to turn. Incidentally; how was Lee able to positively identify the black object ahead as an iceberg if he didn't actually see it as such? After all, there were none of the usual, normal identifying signs.. in particular waves breaking round it's base.
My own belief is; the iceberg was relatively small and seen by the lookouts when it was little over 1100 feet ahead of the ship. They were unsure what it was at first because of the calm sea and therefore waited for positive identification. This took about 25-30 seconds. At or near the exact moment they positively identified it as an iceberg; Murdoch also spotted it. By this time, it was a mere 200 feet ahead of the ship... way too late! Murdoch made his turn - attempting to go to port round it. The rest is as they say... history.

JC
 

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